We’re experiencing an exciting time for packaging designers, who once again have the opportunity to be 100% creative with no limits. From bright colour transitions to no colour at all, from an eclectic style to minimalism, and from ingenious packaging solutions to an allergy to plastic. It is up to designers to be smarten up with trends and to utilise everything ensure the product jumps off the shelf as well as the screen.
Looking beyond Trends
I’ve detected four clear packaging design evolutions, whilst noticing that we must look further beyond trends alone. The first is the ‘general allergy’ to the excessive use of ‘plastic’ by consumers, the second being the final ‘switch to digital’, the third; an ‘atypical packaging design’ approach and fourth is the feeling that ‘no-nonsense is completely hot’.
Every product category has traditionally over the years, carried its own unique set of codes. High time to make a definitive break with this norm. The success of a number of products is clearly linked to this daring approach, not only because they are intrinsically hip and trendy, but rather because of their communicative atypical approach to packaging. A simple product packaging in a brightly coloured flow pack with only the declaration of ingredients, the whites of 3 eggs, 14 nuts and 3 dates and no bullshit, creates a new dimension on the shelf. An approach that clearly appeals to new generations of consumers, tired of the same old stories. To me, this seems like an obvious evolution that allows us to bring back the versatility of creativity. The various markets and shopping experiences are completely in transformation, even the traditional target groups are no longer predictably subdivided into for example; young vs old or man vs woman, but rather with what my potential buyer attaches a greater purchasing importance. Is he or she looking to make efficient choices at shelf, which may often count for around half of all purchasing decisions? Or does he or she wish to increase the return-on-investment with time spent on shopping? This appears to me to be a future picture that retailers, producers, brands must take into account in order not to lose touch with the consumer. The power of the retailer or the dominance of a brand is long gone. With the arrival of small, local, creative players who focus specifically on this new purchasing behaviour, brands and retailers will have to reinvent themselves more quickly and be more flexible.
Honesty is the best policy
As an experienced packaging designer, I am increasingly confronted with how our clients could differentiate themselves in the market, in order to anticipate the purchasing behaviour evolutions of their consumers. The environmental aspect is an urgent problem, but how do you explain it properly? It is very important to create a visually clear and honest story to persuade the customer to believe in and purchase your product. A good ecological example is the “Seed Phytonutrients”, which include liquid shower soaps packed in a compostable paper and cardboard-based pump bottle that you can take with you in the shower. Despite the countless initiatives, there is still a lot of work ahead. As a packaging designer, it is just as important to listen carefully to your client, but even more important to observe the consumer.
That consumer is a glutton of impulses, online / offline purchases, on demand, personalized, instagrammable, etc. the future is ours ;-)
Let it come, the Vedett with your photo on it, a "Patrick" or "Els" chocolate bar, oh my nutella, ... people are clearly not yet looking for high-tech A.I. packaging, or QR codes that conjure up the craziest things on your smartphone. The intelligence will be in how quickly and efficiently do my daily consumables reach my home. Amazon is already busy creating profiles to help customers bring their monthly supply of goods to your closet or fridge.
The atypical and no-nonsense story is also strongly present in the new visual characteristics packaging design; minimalism and 2-dimensional illustrations, clear and colourful gradients, but also pure and creative black and white applications that give the new packaging character. Even the narrative and vintage-inspired designs easily find their way to the consumer. Nice to have all those options on your plate as a designer ;-)
Patrick De Grande
Creative farmer at Quatre Mains, Branding and Packaging Design